Saturday, November 27, 2010

Eugene Delgaudio needs to come out of the closet

For some time now, I've been getting emails from a group calling itself "Public Advocate of the US." I'm really not sure how this happened - I don't recall ever clicking a box saying "Please send me hot, steamy chunks of hate," but I've been known to drink occasionally when I'm on-line. (You know, red wine is not good for a keyboard...)

The guy in charge of Public Advocate (and potentially the sole employee) is named Eugene Delgaudio, and he's a twisted piece of work. He's apparently a member of the Board of Supervisors in Loudoun County, Virginia. He also likes to set up over-the-top protests of anything he feels is even dimly related to homosexuality.

When the GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) started a campaign to create a “safe space” to prevent the bullying of gay teens, Eugene came out in support of beating up children.
While the stickers and posters blatantly display the upside-down rainbow triangle and pro-homosexual slogan, the booklet is the real threat.

It includes detailed strategies to instruct teachers and students how to create a school environment more accepting of homosexual students and teach other students their lifestyle as a healthy alternative.

It also tells students how to get involved in school policy and how to initiate change to promote the Homosexual Agenda in everyday school life.
Because, you see, every student's right to beat up on fags is protected in the Constitution. ("I'm sure it's in there somewhere! Probably under "pursuit of happiness" or something...")

I think my favorite, though, would have to be his objection to the TSA pat-downs. Now, having been a military cop for 21 years, I can tell you that getting young cops to actually check the groin is one of the hardest taboos to get around. And I have found a knives taped to a guy's underwear. So an effective search has to be a little more "intrusive" than some people are comfortable with. However, as generations of drug mules can attest, you can still stuff quite a bit of stuff up your butt, or hang it down your throat. So the searches aren't really making us more safe.

That, however, is not Eugene's problem with the searches. He doesn't care if terrorists are allowed onto planes cradling bombs like small children. He's just worried that it's all part of the homosexual agenda!
That means the next TSA official that gives you an “enhanced pat down” could be a practicing homosexual secretly getting pleasure from your submission.

Or it could be any sexual pervert, homosexual or heterosexual, or even pedophile that operates the "naked scanner".

That means the next TSA official that operates the “porno scanners” you or your child or mother walk through could be lusting after the image on his screen.

The thought makes me sick.
Other things make him sick, as well. In fact, the idea of repealing DADT pretty much gives him a coronary embolism.
Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen says he supports Congress using its lame-duck session to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

Mullen sides with the Radical Homosexuals instead of the troops, vowing that he would do what it takes to end the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy as soon as possible.

A Pentagon report on the impact of lifting the ban is set for release Dec. 1st, timed nicely with the return of the new Congress.

Of course nobody has asked the soldiers their opinions, and our troops are prohibited from any political activity other than voting.
You know, other than those surveys showing that repealing DADT is supported by most of the military, their families, and even by military chaplains. But, you know, other than them, nobody ever asks the military how they feel, right?

(Incidentally, our troops are only prohibited from political activity in uniform - it's a subtle distinction, but one that's lost on Eugene.)

(His brother, incidentally, plead guilty to child pornography after he paid two teenaged girls to pose all nekkid in a motel room. Not directly related, but makes you wonder about the gene pool our boy Eugene jumped out of.)

There's a strong tinge of paranoia about the man: aside from his assertions that "the homos want to kill me" (he would so love to be a martyr), he openly lies in his fundraising letters. And more than that, when he's called out about his lies, he just lies some more: when he lost a vote about treating transgendered people equally, he sent out an email to his followers stating:
If a man dressed as a woman wants a job, you have to treat "it" the same as a normal person.
When people called him on referring to a person as "it," he tried to claim that the word "it" referred to the "action of hiring a man or a woman."

Read that explanation again; can you parse his statement to mean that? Especially when the same letter referred to "cross-dressing freaks"?

Come on, Eugene. Remember the state slogan? "Virginia is for lovers"?

Why do you hate Virginia, Eugene?

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Quickie with Sarah

Sarah Palin is just the gift that keeps on giving, isn't she? You kind of wish that she'd just go away, but even then, you have that little spot of sadness in your heart that Christine O'Donnell isn't still around to make fun of (don't be sad; we've still got Michelle Bachmann). As the Rude Pundit put it,
Look, sure, yeah, of course, of course, we should be able to fucking ignore Sarah Palin and her molesting P.E. teacher-looking husband ("I'm puttin' my hand on the floor under your chest to make sure you do your push-ups right, Cindy") and her Hills-Have-Eyes-esque brood of mutant children. But she ain't a Jurassic Park T-Rex. If you stand still, she ain't going away. And if she's gonna hate fuck the "lamestream" media constantly, we may as well get off on it, too.

We all know what's gonna happen: she's gonna believe the Wal-Mart shoppers and shut-ins and horny rednecks who tell her at her book signings to run for President. And she'll run and be an idiot on the issues and a cunt to everyone around her, and then she'll blame everyone else for ruining her chances when, in reality, in a rare moment of clarity, Republicans will vote for the another bugfuck insane candidate, the one who didn't say on her own reality show that she got millions of dollars to do that she thinks it sucks that people invade her privacy and that she's just regular people, like you and you over there, who must have a TV studio in your home so you can tell Sean Hannity what regular people think.
But let's ignore all this furor over the fact that Sarah still doesn't know the difference between North and South Korea, and think about this.

If you can't stomach the whole thing, go to the 1:15 spot and listen to her talk about "the extreme politicians over on the left who want to buy into those extreme environmentalists who claim that there's no way you can responsibly develop a plot of land that was set aside for oil and gas development."

OK, Sarah, I understand that you've called it "An-Wahr" for so long that maybe you think that's the name of the place. But you're taking a reporter there right now. Maybe you should know something about it.

Let's highlight one brief cut there. When she's talking about "a plot of land that was set aside for oil and gas development," she's referring to ANWR.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

You just can't make this shit up.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bloody hell

On Friday, United Blood Services had another blood drive. The bus was parked outside of our office building for the entire day. I walked past it several times, but didn't even bother to go in.

I'm not boycotting UBS. In fact, every time I had to walk past them, it made me a little depressed. You see, it was about five years ago that UBS informed me that they no longer required my services.

This isn't because I was in Kuwait after the first Gulf War; even though I had to patrol through vehicle remains known to contain depleted uranium rounds, they really didn't care about that. And it didn't have anything to do with being one of the first units into Iraq after the invasion in 2003; that, it seems, wasn't even worth noting.

It's not because of anything in my private life. I've never had sex with another man, I've never had hepatitis and I'm not a drug user. (OK, the odd molecule of THC might have found its way into my body once or twice; let's not make a big deal out of it.)

It's because I lived in Germany.

You see, the FDA has decided that anyone who's lived a cumulative six months in Europe (or three months in the UK) can no longer give blood. Because, despite not having any evidence that there's any danger to anybody, the FDA is so ass-clenchingly frightened of mad cow disease that they're going to allow the US blood supply to become dangerously depleted.

Mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy - BSE - or new variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease - vCJD or nvCJD) was first identified in England in 1984. What happened was, although cattle are herbivores, a little extra protein makes them fatten up faster. Throughout most of the world, this protein has come from soybeans.

But soybeans don't grow well in Europe, and cattle farmers there began supplementing their cow's diets with some various waste products nobody was using - mostly bone meal, and occasionally organs that never caught on as food.

(For example, brains, which haven't ever been popular anywhere but the American Midwest, where diners near the stockyards of St Louis started serving batter-dipped, fried brain slices as sandwiches; their popularity has, unaccountably died out except in a few smaller establishments.)

To be clear, BSE is the name of the disease when it's in cattle; vCJD is the disease in humans. In either case, the disease essentially chews holes in the brain tissue, making it look like a sponge (hence, "spongiform"). But under either name, it qualifies as a TSE (transmissible spongiform encephalopathy).

The problem is that Mad Cow is transmitted by prions, which are neither a virus nor a bacteria, but more of a rogue protein. One that survives, incidentally, at remarkably high temperatures. And there hasn't been enough study of prions for scientists to really have a firm grasp on their properties.

There have been some suggestions that a change in British law allowing for lower-temperature sterilization of the beefy by-products was the culprit. But the British government has studied the problem pretty extensively, and determined that "changes in process could not have been solely responsible for the emergence of BSE, and changes in regulation were not a factor at all."

There are other diseases passed by prions: Scrapie, for instance, is similar to BSE, but affects sheep and goats; it's been known about since the eighteenth century, but doesn't seem to jump the species barrier.

In the Fifties, there was an epidemic of Kuru among New Guinea natives; kuru is a neurodegenerative disease (hmmm... so it makes the brain go bad...), and is only passed, as far as anybody can tell, through cannibalism. So that's a native cultural tradition that maybe we shouldn't respect...

However, there have only been 218 identified cases of vCJD worldwide since it was identified. Not exactly the epidemic that some people think.

When I was younger, I donated on a regular basis. Many people in the military see the importance of donating blood. Of course, since military members and their families are one of the most common types of Americans who live overseas for extended periods, this has taken thousands of potential blood donors off of the market.

And with the national blood supply dangerously low, this may be a policy that puts live at risk for little or no reason.

(It's not just blood products that have been affected, either. Sperm banks have been unable to import replacements to refill depleted stocks of once-popular Nordic sperm.)

So, on Friday, I walked past the Bloodmobile, a little sadder each time.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Ten Commandments? Again?

Over in Texas, yet another legislator wants to find a way to sneak the Ten Commandments into public buildings. This time, they're using the "foot in the door" theory of governance: this bill will "protect public school teachers who have chosen to have the Ten Commandments displayed in their classrooms" by claiming it's a "patriotic exercise," not a religious one. (Just proving he doesn't understand either history or religion.)

In Florida, the mayor of Cape Coral thought that posting the Ten Commandments in City Hall was a spiffy idea, but the City Council didn't agree.

This comes up at least a couple of times a year, as some thoughtless theocrat tries to commit religious bukkake and squirt his personal theology in the faces of everybody around them.

Let's start, of course, with the fact that this act is automatically exclusionary. Even past the objections of the irreligious (you know, the people who might not want their tax money spent on somebody else's silly damned belief system), what about the folks who actually believe in this stuff? Whose version of the Decalogue are you going to post up there?

The Ten Commandments are normally pulled from Exodus 20:2–17 (which is mirrored in Deuteronomy 5:6–21). And despite the customary image of the two stones, in neither book is there a neat, tidy set of ten bullet statements, so different religions split things up differently.

The best example, of course, is the first three Commandments, which are widely variable. Reading from Exodus, we take the following verses:
I am the LORD thy God... Thou shalt have no other gods before me... Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image... (nor) bow down thyself to them, nor serve them
(As always, we'll be sticking with King James version. Because, you know, "breathed out by God" and all... but mostly because I like the poetry of the language.)

Now, if you happen to be Jewish, "I am the Lord thy God," all by itself, is the First Commandment. Most Protestants, on the other hand, essentially treat that as a preface to the actual list, while the Orthodox sects fold it into the "no other gods" part; Catholics and Lutherans, meanwhile, slam the whole thing together into one big lumpy First Commandment.

This means, of course, that the Third Commandment is "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain." Unless you're Catholic (or again, Lutheran), who believe that's the Second Commandment.

And this one-off numbering continues on down the list until you get to those pesky "covets," which most of the God-swallowers lump together.

Except, of course, the followers of the Pope or Martin Luther, who split off the first "covet" and have their own personal Ninth Commandment. Where everybody else just pretty much says "don't covet anything," the Catholics and Lutherans figure that not coveting another man's wife needs its own place in the list, separate from more mundane covetousness, such as the ass.

As for coveting the wife's ass, they don't like to talk about that. (Ba-dum ching! Thank you! I'll be here all week!)

So, in posting the Ten Commandments, which religion do you honor over the rest? The Jewish, Catholic, or Protestant? (We'll ignore the Lutherans this time; they're just following in their trouble-making founder's footsteps.)

But just for fun, let's consider the Ten Commandments (all three versions) themselves.

I am the LORD thy God... Thou shalt have none other gods before me... for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God...

Do you notice that God doesn’t say that there ARE no other gods? Just that you shouldn’t worship them, because He doesn’t appreciate the competition. I’ve always thought that was interesting.

But then we get to Deuteronomy 5:8-9: Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them...

Kind of puts art out of reach of the common man, doesn’t it? It’s only later translations of that verse that change "graven images" to "idols" – the original Hebrew doesn’t have any "sacred" subtext attached to the word for graven image (pecel). Since the two statements are seperable (“Make no graven images” and “bow down and worship them”), it makes one wonder what God thought of Michelangelo.

In fact, this same prohibition, sans the "bowing down" bit, is echoed earlier in the same book (Deu 4:23-25).

Further along, we come to this: Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. (Deu 5:12-14)

A strict reading of that would indicate that taking Saturday off is in opposition to the Word of God. He's telling you to work for six days, not just five.

Which also brings us to the fact that the Sabbath is supposed to be on the last day of the week, not the first – but that goes back to the antisemitism of the Council of Laodicea: Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.

Makes you wonder about the people who claim that "the Ten Commandments are the source of the American legal system!" Yeah, not so much.

Basically, even if you include perjury (which doesn't always qualify), there are only three Commandments that count as laws (the other two being murder and theft). Three out of ten; 30% isn't a passing grade on any test I've ever taken.

Taking God's name in vain? Sorry, freedom of speech.

Adultery? Hardly a crime; practically a way of life in some places.

Honoring fathers and mothers? Well, we try, but they keep trying to tear down Social Security.

And you really can't ban coveting. Wanting something better is the driving force of capitalism, after all.

So how important are these ten little rules again?

Update (10/19/10): It has been pointed out that the choice of which day should be the Sabbath was covered in tbe New Testament.

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days... (Col 2:16, ignoring that whole "jot and tittle" argument)

A statement that was, of course, ignored until the 4th Century, when the Council of Laodicea got all post-Jewry on their asses. But there it is.

“Military glory - that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood” (A. Lincoln)

Writing at the ironically-named website The Moral Liberal (which is apparently neither), Bryan Fischer has discovered something that shocks him to his core.
But I have noticed a disturbing trend in the awarding of these medals, which few others seem to have recognized.

We have feminized the Medal of Honor.

According to Bill McGurn of the Wall Street Journal, every Medal of Honor awarded during these two conflicts has been awarded for saving life. Not one has been awarded for inflicting casualties on the enemy. Not one.

Gen. George Patton once famously said, “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other guy die for his.”

When we think of heroism in battle, we used the think of our boys storming the beaches of Normandy under withering fire, climbing the cliffs of Pointe do Hoc while enemy soldiers fired straight down on them, and tossing grenades into pill boxes to take out gun emplacements.

That kind of heroism has apparently become passe when it comes to awarding the Medal of Honor. We now award it only for preventing casualties, not for inflicting them.
He then rambles on for another seven paragraphs about the bloody sacrifice of the Prince of Peace. Go figure.

But if we wander over to the American Family Association website (because, after all, glorifying violence and war apparently count as "family values"), we find that picture of Mr Fischer, which makes me immediately think "Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?"

But we also find Mr Fischer's bio.
Bryan Fischer has an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Stanford University, and a graduate degree in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He served on the staff of Cole Community Church in Boise, where he founded the Cole Center for Biblical Studies and served as its director for 13 years. He then founded Community Church of the Valley, where he served as senior pastor for 12 years. Prior to joining the leadership team at American Family Association, Bryan served as Executive Director of the Idaho Values Alliance which was the state affiliate of the AFA.
Do you notice what is specifically missing from that bio?

Military service.

I love it when people who never bothered to wear a uniform blather on about "the valor that is expressed in killing enemy soldiers," as if he has any idea what he's talking about.

Mr Fischer, I'd like to formally invite you to kiss my military ass.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Long-haired freaky people need not apply

As it turns out, it takes over two years for me to grow a really good head of hair.

For my long-time readers (all 3 of them), you're already aware that about 30 months ago or so, I shaved my head to raise money for a local women's shelter called Barrett House. More money than I'd planned, really - with a target of $100, I managed to raise a little over $1300. And a good time was had by all.

Our CEO was reasonably happy with the minor press we got, and she flippantly asked if I was going to do it again the next year.

Well, I decided to raise the stakes, because, to be honest, I'm easily bored. I suffer from an advanced case of ADOST (Attention Deficit... ooh Shiny Thing! ), and I figured that, to raise said stakes, I'd need to donate the hair to Locks of Love instead of wasting it. A microscopic amount of research later, I learned that it needed to be ten inches long for them to make a wig. So I set that as my goal. Now, around two and a half years later, it's between 10 and 12 inches long, so I figure I could be bald again for charity.

Now, in the intervening two-plus years, I had less time to devote to raising money, so I was hoping that allying with the United Way folks might help. (Sadly, it didn't - we didn't earn nearly what we did two-plus years ago. But that's OK - I wasn't the only cause in their bucket, and every couple of hundred helps.)

But that led us to the Embaldening. People had paid a buck for a chance to play barber, and we had all their tickets.

While they pulled out the box and set up the clippers, the Trophy Wife (always supportive, even if she prefers my hair longer) brushed this god-awful mess into multiple pony-tails, in order to get maximum usable hair.

Meanwhile, a little more research had told me that there was no easy solution to this "hair issue." To begin with, there are some serious questions regarding Locks of Love.

Wait a minute! Didn't Oprah endorse them?

Yeah, she did. But some people still have questions. Some big questions, which Oprah didn't bother to ask. Sadly, I did.

Here on the home front, they started drawing names to see who would be shaving off my flowing locks. The first turned out to be a doctor on call, and he couldn't make it. The next, a nurse manager, didn't want to do it (apparently, I hadn't pissed her off enough). Finally, we got Barbara Hoidahl, who, it turns out, was the prettiest of the three choices thus far, so, you know, that was a bonus for me.

Now, normally, having an attractive woman running her fingers through your hair is a good thing. Other times, perhaps less so. Sometimes, it's a challenge just to keep them on task. She kept herself entertained for quite a while, which I suppose counted for something.

So, what did we know about Locks of Love?

Well, for one thing, the Better Business Bureau hasn't been able to endorse them until this year, because until now, they refused to provide complete information on their finances. (I kind of have a problem with that...) And their administrative expenses are a pretty big chunk of their cash outflow. (Is "outflow" a word? Well, it is now...)

And Locks of Love has never explained any of their earlier discrepancies. They just meet standards now - what went before apparently doesn't matter.

What's been happening (and appears to still be happening) is that if the hair doesn't meet some fairly strict standards, it gets sold to pay expenses. Now, here's my thing. If the hair is being sold, what is it being used for? Mattress stuffing? I mean, think about it for a second - there's really only one use for hair that can't be filled by another substance, and for less money.

Natural-hair wigs.

I mean, maybe I'm looking at this problem wrong, but, if somebody can make a wig from the hair in question, then why the hell can't Locks of Love make the same wig, and plant it on some kid's head?

In the meantime, having people wandering around shoving cameras in your face can just get annoying.

* sigh * It's the price you pay, I suppose.

There was some question for a while regarding what conditions would qualify a kid for a Locks of Love wig. Apparently, they were originally interested primarily in alopecia, and not too concerned about children undergoing chemotherapy. They seem to have corrected this little discrepancy since then. But they still seem to sell off more hair than they use. This really bothers me a lot.

So I'm going to keep my eye on Locks of Love, but at this point, I'm not comfortable donating to them. However, with just a little research, I found several other charities doing pretty much the same thing.

There's Wigs for Kids, which was started by a hairdresser named Jeffrey Paul

For our British friends, there's the Little Princess Trust, which is based in the United Kingdom (Hereford, in England - near the border of Wales, to be precise). But that was a little out of the way for me. (In the same way, there's Zichron Menachem in Israel - in case you don't read Hebrew, here's the Wikipedia entry. Again, not exactly local.)

And there's Pantene Beautiful Lengths, run, in a fascinating bit of synergy, by the shampoo company of the same name. They provide free wigs to cancer survivors; the average price of a well made human hair wig is about $1,200 and most insurance companies cover only a tiny amount of that, if anything. Because insurance companies suck.

And here's the thing: I haven't found out anything negative about the Pantene charity. (If anybody knows anything, please tell me. And give me some links - back up your accusations, please.) They give the wigs for free, where Locks of Love charges a sliding scale. They work in conjunction with the American Cancer Society, the Entertainment Industry Foundation and Hair U Wear (a leading maker of hair extensions and additions), so their operations are scrutinized pretty well.

So I felt pretty good about my choice of charities. Plus, they gave me a new hat. So, bonus!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Jewish terrorist sympathizers to meet at Ground Zero

I originally saw this as an excerpt posted at Loonwatch, from the "mother post" at Fascinating, either way, but credit where credit is due and all...
On Sunday November 7th at 3:30 pm, followers and supporters of Rabbi Meir Kahane from Canada and America will gather at Ground Zero ostensibly to rally against "political Islam." Why is this important news for many Americans who consider Ground Zero a sacred site? Because Rabbi Kahane is the founder of the villainous Kach Israeli political party, a group on the U.S. State Department's official list of terrorist organizations.

A little background on Mr. Kahane: he was a hardline ordained Jewish Rabbi who advocated the removal of Arabs from Palestine in order to create a homogeneous "Greater Israel" modeled upon Jewish religious law. His slogan is "every Jew a .22."

Widely denounced by other Jews as a racist, he gained worldwide infamy when one of his followers, the notorious Baruch Goldstein, perpetrated the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, wherein Mr. Goldstein brutally gunned down dozens of Palestinian Muslim worshippers who were praying inside the Abraham Mosque. Another one of Mr. Kahane’s followers is on trial in Michigan for shooting an Arab man in an act of "road rage."

And British activists in the Kahane-inspired Jewish Defense League have cozied up, ironically enough, with the thuggish English Defense League despite their attachment to the violent neo-nazi outfit Combat 18. In short, Mr. Kahane is something of a folk-hero for extremists bent on Jewish domination of the Holy Land at the expense of indigenous Arabs and Muslims, including Arab Christians. In a few weeks, Mr. Kahane’s followers are bringing their message of hate and racial supremacy to Ground Zero.

I repeat: supporters of an officially designated terrorist organization that advocates an unforgiving expansionist religious-political ideology are meeting to honor their racist terrorist leader on the site of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.

Stereotyping Jews or any group because of the actions of an extremist fringe is deeply wrong. But this situation begs the question: what if they were Muslim?

Imagine, if you can, the thunderous firestorm that would be unleashed if supporters of Al-Qaeda gathered at Ground Zero to honor Osama Bin Laden. The scene would be too ghastly for words, with 24 hour cable news coverage, politicians on both sides of the aisle lining up to score points for condemnation, and Muslim-bashing bloggers having a field day. All of Islam and all Muslims would bear collective guilt for their actions. Muslim leaders across the country would denounce terrorism only to be told that they have not denounced terrorism enough or that they are secret stealth jihadists. It would be said, "Where are the moderate Muslims? Why do they not condemn terrorism?" And Steve Emerson’s fear-mongering-for-profit operation would continue to rake in millions. You get the picture.

But as for Mr. Kahane’s followers, we aren't going to hear a peep out of Newt, Palin, Spencer, or Geller. We will not hear Bill O'Reilly speaking down to Jews on his show about their "Jewish problem." And we will not hear the same chorus of outrage about the holiness of Ground Zero or the sensitivities of 9/11 victims' families.

Why? Because these particular terrorists are not Muslims. It is as simple as that.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

On animal rights, and embedding sound files

So, I've been reading a site called Science Digestive for some time, run by a self-identified neuroscientist and comedian, who recently ended up on in an episode of a British podcast called the Pod Delusion. (Oh, yeah, he's a Brit - don't hold that against him. Some of my best friends are Anglo.)

He said some things about animal testing that I've been saying for years, only with the advantage, unlike me, of actually having done animal testing. (And the man's reasonably intelligent to begin with - neuroscience ain't for dummies, right?)

He caught some flak for it. Especially when he posted a transcript of his article on his site and people had a target for their ignorance and wrath.

(What do you call a "podcast article," anyway? "Podicle" seems contrived and relatively stupid. "Artcast" is obviously out. I think I'm partial to "particle," but I need to think about it.)

So I contacted him and asked if he had an .mp3 of his bit, and could I post it? Turns out he did, and I could. Which led to a problem I hadn't foreseen.

Blogger doesn't have an easy way to embed .mp3's. You'd think that would be an obvious one, but not so much. There's probably a good reason for this omission - they didn't want to become a launching platform for podcasts, they didn't want to use up all their memory on people's stupid sound bites, something like that. But screw 'em - they were a problem for ME now, and that's unacceptable.

Now, I know just enough about computers to get myself in trouble, and I quickly found out that most solutions involved downloading players or plugins (and the associated malware, in far too many cases), and I didn't want to do that.

But digging around, I found DivShare, where you:
1. Upload the file from your computer
2. Go to your profile
3. Select the look of the player
4. Hit "embed" and they give you the code to copy and paste.
Simple, easy, and free. I like it. (The only real thing you have to think about: the last 3 choices of player - including the one I thought looked best - are for paying users only. That little red squiggle over the "select" is supposed to be a dollar sign.)

(Oh, and you do have to click through some "please give us money and upgrade" pages every so often. But there's always a "skip" link somewhere on there.)

(Obviously, this isn't a paid endorsement, or I wouldn't have included that last comment. So there you are.)

Now let's see if it works. If it does, we should have an .mp3 player here at the bottom of the post, where you can hear the brilliant words of the generous Dean Burnett, neuroscientist, comedian, and fellow blogger.

Thank you, technology. And thank you, Dean Burnett.

(Remember, children. Only use this power for Good.)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Democracy: Going, going, gone

An editorial in the Montreal Gazette - fascinating how quickly an outsider can see one of the major problems with our electoral system, but our GOP can't. Not even McCain 2010 (an entirely different beast from the moderate who proposed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance rules).
(h/t to the expats at Pisani Canadian Adventures - you might want to stay there. Canada sounds remarkably civilized.
Our American friends will find themselves, Wednesday morning, with the most expensive Congress money can buy. The last-minute tsunami of campaign spending gives Canadians still another reason to feel smug -we really do handle this better here. But the orgy of spending in Congressional races can have negative consequences for us.

U.S. candidates are burning through a record sum this year, over $2 billion. That's 10 per cent more than in 2008, and there's not even a presidential election this year.

Many representatives elected Tuesday will start Wednesday to raise money for their 2012 races. And far too often, "raising money" is a euphemism for "selling your vote." Literally taking bribes is still fairly rare, as far as anyone knows, but legislators do sell their votes, in a sense, to raise campaign funds: They decide to vote for the positions advocated by special-interest lobbyists; those interests then make donations.

Worse, much of the money goes for poisonous negative ads, which will be unavoidable on Plattsburgh and Burlington TV this weekend. These are almost always shameful over-or mis-statements, tailored to create the impression that the other candidate is a bigot, a dupe, a fanatic, a near-criminal, a class enemy, and/or a moron. Then people wonder why respect for politicians is so low.

Part of the problem is that members of Congress are free of party constraint. Where Canadian MPs risk losing various perks or even official party renomination if they buck their leaders, Congress is in a sense 535 independents, each one taking his own position on each issue -and often raising more or less money depending on what those positions are.

Sometimes the special interests want protection against Canadian competition, or more pressure put on Canada to comply with this or that U.S. policy. There's an obvious danger there for us. But there's another risk, too: Sharp left-right polarization, and the resulting big swings in control of the House or Senate or both, make it very hard for Canadian governments and companies to predict U.S. policy. A boisterous and unpredictable neighbour can make you awfully nervous.

As if Congressional politics weren't already dysfunctional, Supreme Court and regulatory rulings this year permit almost unlimited "outside money" -from outside a district, from outside the scope of laws governing party finance, and in practice even from outside the country -in campaigns since this is considered legitimate free speech.

This has resulted in parachute drops of over $250 million of such money. Some candidates have been amazed to see their opponents suddenly sharply attacked in ads from nationwide industry groups or unions or, worse, by mysterious spenders disguised behind some shapeless label like "Citizens United." The House has already passed legislation requiring disclosure of the sources of such money; the Senate has not. Usefully, sunlightfoundation.comtracks what it can of such spending.

It's a mess. You know your system needs work when your Congress can be bought by anonymous bidders, like old master paintings at an art auction.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

What hath the midterms wrought?

So, what do we know about the election results?

Well, New Mexico just installed a teabagger in the governor's mansion, so where does that leave us? Well, I can be glad that I decided against a second career in the police, or as a teacher, when I got out of the military.

Then again, I'm working in a hospital, and Medicaid cuts are pretty much a certainty, so little comfort there.

GOP lapdog Steve Pearce got his old job back as Congresscritter, so at least our newly-crowned Governor Martinez won't be lonely.

On the national front, the candidates endorsed by Sarah Palin didn't fare as well as some people expected: if you discount the ones who were already shoo-ins before the Palinator bestowed her blessing on them, her batting average was about 0.5 or so. (It hardly matters - even if she'd had a 100% failure rate, her followers have long since proven themselves to be invulnerable to little things like "logic" or "reason.")

Jerry Brown has been reelected as governor of California, with just a little gap of twenty-seven years between his second and third terms.

(I know Ahnold hasn't been working out as much as he used to, but who would have thought he could be beaten by a 72-year-old former Jesuit seminarian and law clerk?)

Harry Reid held onto his seat, despite a particularly mendacious campaign by teabagger favorite Sharron Angle. In fact, the Tea Party candidates didn't do well overall - not a single teabagger picked up a contested seat in the Senate, with national jokes like Angle, Joe Miller and Christine O'Donnell going down in flames. (Admittedly, Kentucky elected Rand Paul, but that's more a symptom of inbreeding than anything else.)

To counteract the GOP depression brought on by Reid's continued presence in the Senate, Alan Grayson lost his House reelection bid, which probably gives John Boehner as much of an erection as he can get since that horrible melanin overdose.

Regarding the "traditional wisdom" of Grayson losing because he was an "outspoken liberal," Southern Beale pointed me to an analysis by Digby, who said:
Regarding Grayson, well, we have a little controlled experiment. His neighboring first term Democratic congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas, in a very similar district, took the opposite approach to Grayson. She ran as hard to the right as she could get away with, never had a controversial thought much less uttered one, was rewarded with big money and support from the DCCC --- and she lost too. This race was bigger than both of them. Florida is turning hard right.
But more than that, having landed on Digby's Hullabaloo, I was led to this statistical recap of the election by Ed Kilgore.
Finally, something must be said about the electorate that produced these results. According to national exit polls, 2010 voters broke almost evenly in terms of their 2008 presidential votes; indeed, given the normal tendency of voters to "misremember" past ballots as being in favor of the winner, this may have been an electorate that would have made John McCain president by a significant margin. Voters under 30 dropped from 18% of the electorate to 11%; African-Americans from 13% to 10%, and Hispanics from 9% to 8%. Meanwhile, voters over 65, the one age category carried by John McCain, increased from 16% of the electorate to 23%.

These are all normal midterm numbers. But because of the unusual alignment of voters by age and race in 2008, they produced a very different outcome, independently of any changes in public opinion. Indeed, sorting out the "structural" from the "discretionary" factors in 2008-2010 trends will be one of the most important tasks of post-election analysis, since the 2012 electorate will be much closer to that of 2008. That's also true of the factor we will hear most about in post-election talk: the "swing" of independents from favoring Obama decisively in 2008 to favoring Republicans decisively this year. Are these the same people (short answer: not as much as you'd think), or a significantly different group of voters who happened to self-identify as independents and turned out to vote?
Or to put it another way, the party in power always loses in the midterms. It is as it always has been. Nothing new going on here.

And in barely related news, McDonald's has brought back the McRib sandwich, which is an interesting coincidence: with Republicans on the rise again, pork is back in fashion. Imagine that.

Update (11/4/10): It has been suggested that Ahnold wasn't running against Jerry Brown; Meg Whitman was. Noted. However, I refuse to give up on a perfectly good joke based strictly on something as minor as "reality."

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Vote, or get teabagged - your choice

Haven't voted yet? What the hell is wrong with you?

I believe I've mentioned the media narrative that certain parties (* ahem * GOP) are trying to promote. And if you believe that nonsense, you'll believe anything.

Other people are trying to push the "common wisdom" of voter apathy (and, sadly, there's some evidence to back that up).

And they'll try anything, up to and including trying to push the false narrative that you shouldn't vote to "send a message to Washington."

Let me tell you what happens if the Republicans gain a solid majority. First, they continue to do nothing - that's your tax dollars getting wasted by Republicans who want to prove that government doesn't work.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. On the eve of midterms elections that could make him House Speaker, John Boehner announced, "This is not a time for compromise." His lieutenant Mike Pence (R-IN) echoed that line, declaring that with a new Republican majority "there will be no compromise" with President Obama and the Democrats. Of course, with their record-setting use of the filibuster, unprecedented obstruction of presidential nominees, and unified no votes on almost every major piece of legislation, the past performance of Congressional Republicans is a guarantee of future results.
On the other hand, what can happen if they don't get a stranglehold on the government?

Well, we can get this oligarchical Citizens United ruling changed. Can DADT get canned? A little more difficult - but Obama can just do it unilaterally in his second term. Comprehensive immigration reform? Not going to happen under a Republican.

Now, go to this website (apparently set up by Tony Soprano), find your polling place, and do it! Don't let the idiots win.